What makes a player overrated? Many seem to think that overrated means that a player is considered good, but is in fact not good. That’s a very simple explanation of the term, and it’s also so vague that it is practically incorrect. A better definition is a little more refined, and it’s one that I’ve always ascribed to. An overrated player is a player that, through no fault of their own, is considered to be better than they really are. Often this is fan driven, who tend to have a ‘do-no-wrong’ mantra for their favorite players. The overrated player is raised on a pedestal and their achievements lifted on high, with any negatives simply cast to the wayside. As a direct result of this, other players are often thought of negatively. In general, these are players who performed statistically better, or were given more playing time. Sometimes, there isn’t even any reasoning at all. When I was preparing for my opinion piece on #unpopularopinions, one of the most mentioned entries was simply “X players is overrated.” As such, I’m going to take a look at some of the Lions’ most overrated players, some chosen by you the readers and others chosen by myself. Now remember, being on this list doesn’t mean that a player is bad, in many cases the player is going to be very good to great. Being “overrated” simply means that no matter how good they are, fans/media tend to make them appear like they are better than they have shown themselves to be. Some of these players could also be considered UNDERrated, so don’t expect this list to be a be all end all for overrated-ness. And without further explanation, here are the most overrated players on the Lions’ roster!
I have to admit, I was a little surprised to see his name mentioned. However, as explained by Neil Fischer: “he catches a lot a balls but who on the Lions doesn’t. He is good route runner but that’s all that can be said for him. Again, as a Minnesotan I got to watch him next to Moss and get rich off of it. Now next to Johnson he is being seen as good again. He might have some value in the locker room but on the field I think he is marginal”. Burleson has made a career being a #2 receiver, and has done quite well for the Lions catching a career high 73 passes in 2011. Compared to some of the other #2s in the NFL today like Julio Jones, Victor Cruz, and Eric Decker, it’s hard to argue he’s anything more than a marginal #2 by comparison.
Houston may be atop the most underrated list for the Lions, but there ARE fans that overrate his abilities. Houston is an ideal LCB, and that’s a good thing, but it’s also an indication of how he IS somewhat overrated. Houston proved to be a liability when he was moved around the formation to cover #1s, but covered them just fine from LCB. Most fans (Because of Madden) think of CBs in a traditional #1, #2, #3, etc. sort of role, but Houston isn’t a #1 CB even though he often covers the #1 receivers. He is comfortable on his side of the field, and does a fabulous job locking it down in the Lions scheme, but a lack of versatility is a big reason I’m comfortable including him on this list.
WHAT!!! REALLY!!!???!!! Yes, but let me explain before you start throwing metaphorical tomatoes at me. Johnson is CLEARLY the best receiver in the NFL. The. Best. So how can he be overrated? One thing makes me keep him here, and one thing only, is fan’s idea that “Nobody can cover him.” Scot Linehan catches a lot of flak, but one of the most underrated aspects of his game has been his ability to move Calvin around the formation to get him off of a corner who was doing well on him and to have his routes put him in a better place to get the ball. Richard Sherman covered Calvin well, but couldn’t cover Titus Young so Linehan switched where each were to make sure Young was matched up with Sherman. Charles Tillman also covered Johnson well, but Linehan knows the Cover 2 that Marinelli runs is vulernable at the Safety position so he often made sure Johnson was getting put on the Safeties, even two at a time. Calvin is extremely difficult for defenders to cover, and impossible to blank completely (It’s never happened), but he’s not uncoverable. Another clear issue with Calvin’s game is the drops and the fumbles, ball security in general. The scary part is that Calvin ALSO could fall into the underrated category because despite these small issues, they are correctable, meaning that Calvin Johnson might actually get BETTER in the next few seasons.
Some of you are just as confused by this mention as Calvin, since Raiola has often been the source of many a Lions fan’s ire. However, as Doug puts it “not from a fans perspective,but from a coaching perspective…THEY seem to think he’s quite good it seems…the fans would have gotten rid of him years ago!” Hard to argue with that. The team made it clear from the time they changed staff that Raiola was the Center and they’ve made only a few half-hearted attempts to replace him. Since Mayhew and Schwartz took over the team, they’ve only picked up an injured waiver wire guy from the Cowboys (Cut this year) and semi-groomed an UDFA from 2012 as a potential future replacement.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that Edwards is a personal favorite of mine, and I’d like him to make the team, a fact that he’s thankfully backed me up on by tearing up Training Camp two years in a row. I share the fan base’s opinion that he is an overrated player, however, succinctly put by Derek Mac “The guy has a better disappearing act than Houdini.” Edwards is still on the fast track to make the team as a receiver, and has been the best returner so far, but he needs to start proving his worth on the field and quick. With Calvin Johnson out vs. the Browns, he has the perfect opportunity to show up and make his presence known.
Another candidate to make the underrated list, Pettigrew falls in the overrated category largely due to his focus by the Detroit Media and the team itself. Pettigrew has done everything but endear himself to the fans, always in the top of the league in drops and adding uncharacteristic fumbles (1 career from 2009-2011) to his game in 2012. As Brad Nelson puts it “…last year was a year that he could of really stepped up to shine but he fell on his face. He holds the franchise records that he holds simply because he’s in a system that throws a lot and doesn’t actually have the talent that his stats show…” Pettigrew holds many franchise records for a Tight End, and if the team retains him he is likely to take the rest of them. Has he earned the right to appear on nearly every piece of team gear (Cups, banners, etc.), alongside Stafford, Johnson, and Suh? I should think not.
Fairley has shown himself to be dominant when he’s on the field. Fans almost universally hated this pick when he was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft and then didn’t play for much of the season. When he finally made it, healthy, to the field, he straight up embarrassed the best Guard in football, Carl Nicks. For one half of football. Then he was sidelined with injury again. 2012 would see Fairley pushing it once again, spending a lot of time injured and playing behind Corey Williams before finally getting on the field and lighting it up for seven starts. Then he was injured again. If you haven’t caught the trend of why he’s overrated, it’s the injuries thing. No one can dominate from the bench in street clothes.
Now for Mine
Those are the players that received the most mentions, or the best explanations, from my readers. Some honorable mentions include Chris Greenwood, Matt Willis, Joseph Fauria, Bill Bentley, and Havard Rugland. For the last few, I’m going to list my own (With some supporting quotes), but these are my personal top 5 most overrated players listed in order from 5th most to most.
#5 Matthew Stafford
Stafford is closing in quickly on every franchise record the Lions have for a Quarterback, and should own several of the ones he doesn’t already own by the end of this season. So in terms of Lions’ Quarterbacks, he’s right at the top. In comparison with the rest of the league, Lions fans tend to overvalue his contribution, while yes there are those that undervalue it (Wins is not a QB stat). Stafford has terrible mechanics, and while they were a concern when he was drafted it was a minor concern. They’ve only gotten worse, and no matter how people LOVE to spin it so it sounds like he’s improvising, you do NOT throw side arm off your back foot in a clean pocket. Stafford does that. There ARE advantages to how he can throw from anywhere, and there are examples of him doing so to good effect. I liken his abilities, however, to that of a builder who can build really good door frames. It’s an important part of the house, and a good skill to have, but you can’t build the whole house out of door frames; meaning you’ll need to learn how to do other things well or there will be a lot of slack needing to be made up.
Again, let me be clear. Suh is the best defensive player on the Lions, and one of the best Defensive Tackles in the NFL. The first jersey I bought with my own money was a Suh jersey and that thing is almost completely worn out because I have worn it so much. However, there is this prevailing idea that Suh is, already, the greatest Defensive Tackle in the NFL and maybe ever. Suh is a fantastic player, and he has gotten better since his rookie campaign, but his game is far from complete. Suh has been a problem as a run defender at times in his career, most notable in his rookie campaign. Those issues have still remained, though he’s gotten better at them. As a pass rusher, his numbers were inflated a bit as a rookie, but he was still an excellent pass rusher. He dropped off in 2011, but rebounded nicely in 2012 and looks to only get better. The issue I have with Suh is the impact fans seem to think he has. Yes, Suh draws double teams often, but he doesn’t demand so much attention that “Anyone could play next to him and get double digit sacks.” Ignoring the lengthy explanation of how DE vs. OT works, no DT in the history of the universe has ever demanded so much attention that anyone could play next to them and get double digit sacks. Suh is a very good player, but he is not magic.
#3 Louis Delmas
No player received more mentions than Louis Delmas when I began talking about overrated players. Robert Clabuesch said “…making a few big hits doesn’t make up for a lack of play on the ball”; and that sentiment seems very common for Lions fans. If his health wasn’t in question, his play definitely would be, as Delmas’ bad habits of overpursuing, taking bad angles, and going for the big hit rather than form tackling have impacted him every bit as much as his injuries have. For a lot of fans, however, Delmas is “A top 10 Safety” when healthy. That may have been true in 2009 after his stellar rookie campaign, but injuries and poor play have plagued him since and Delmas hasn’t shown himself worthy of the contract he picked up. I’ve been a fan of Delmas since he wore #6 for Western, but I have no reservations that he has to step up his game significantly to be considered even an average Safety in the league today.
#2 Tony Scheffler
Speaking of players I’ve watched since college, clocking in at number two is Tony Scheffler. The Lions second Tight End came to Detroit by way of three way trade back in 2010 and has been a fan favorite ever since. Scheffler endears himself to the fans easily as a Chelsea native, and his end zone dances were a rare treat. At the beginning of 2012, fans were clamoring for Scheffler to receive more work, to get more targets, to become a bigger part of the offense. Wish granted. Scheffler responded by dropping off significantly in his catch percentage and TDs while having a career high in targets. Teams were able to cover him with ease, often placing a single CB on him all game and assigning him no other attention. A team high five interceptions were thrown at him. And yet, despite his severe regression, fans are quick to wish for him to be the #1 TE because he is a reliable (50% receiving), sure handed (5 drops, 10th in drop percentage) Tight End. One of my favorite players, there is a big difference between hoping a player does well and pretending they do.
Easily the biggest fan favorite of the Mayhew/Schwartz era, Joique Bell put up very good statistics for the Lions last season despite bouncing from team to team the two years prior. Like Suh, Johnson, and Fairley, Bell is clearly a player who is good at what he does and that is praiseworthy. The issue, and what lands him in my top spot, is that what Bell does and what fans THINK he does are not the same thing. Bell’s name has been floated around as a ‘favorite’ to win the KR/PR spot despite his sole notable return last season resulting in a fumble. I’m not a big 40 time person since you don’t run 40 yards in a straight line often, but do you know when you do? Kick Returns. Bell’s 4.68 is about right for his actual foot-speed on the field, which would put him at the bottom of every KR in the league. Fans are often quick to point out that Mikel Leshoure faced some of the softest coverage in the league and still couldn’t produce on the ground, but often forget to mention that Bell faced the same or SOFTER coverage on his carries, which were often in the 2nd and 4th quarters with the game out of reach. Bell’s YPC is another fact fans will point out, but we’ve already talked before on how looking at total stats is deceptive. Looking at his situational stats, it becomes clear that Bell was used in specific situations only, and that would be in the 4th quarter (56% of his yards, 2 of his 3 TDs). Yes, you read that right, out of the game’s 4 quarters, 56% of his stats came in the 4th quarter alone. Why? Because the Lions were a losing team in 2012 and the 4th quarter was often an exercise in futility with the team lacking any sort of momentum or even ability to take over games. Defenses played extremely soft against the Lions at the end of games last year, because they could. This alone doesn’t make Bell overrated. Bell is excellent in the 4th quarter, obviously, it’s something he is very good at. The problem is when people start saying he could do more, be an every down back, easily take over the 2nd RB slot. Bell had 373 TOTAL yards in Quarters 1-3. Only 221 rushing yards with 1 TD. A respectable, but unspectacular 4.1 YPC. Bell’s Yards per Catch are right around 7 for Quarters 1-3, about right for a swing pass in open space with defenders playing deep. That right there is what you can expect for 75% of a game. Am I saying to dump him? Absolutely not, that 4th Quarter game of his is 7.9 YPC and over 10 Yards per catch, and that’s something a team can use. I do not, however, pretend that he does that all the time. Joique Bell is probably one of the best, if not the best, utility backs in the NFL. He is not a franchise feature back, however. Nor is he a Kick Returning Phenom. He’s not a Secret Superstar. He’s a very good player who should be recognized for what he is. Not for what he is not. Bell is a very good player, and deserves the roster spot he is likely to earn for the team. He is, however, the most overrated player on the Detroit Lions.